JUSTICE AND PEACE
A FRENCH Jesuit, an expert on multinational corporations, once said that the only institution as efficiently and universally supra-national as some of the worldwide corporations was the Society of Jesus.
It may not be surprising, therefore, that the Church's only public research and information service is run by a Jesuit. Fr Kerkhofs, SJ, the Secretary-General of Pro Mundi Vita, and his team of six produce some of the best documentation on Church and world affairs there is.
Now occupying a spacious marbled house in a Brussels side-street, Pro Mundi Vita ("For the life of the World") was founded in 1961 — the practical follow-up to the Papal Encyclical Mater et Magistra. In its own words it Is "at the service of the Catholic Church, of the other Churches, and of all associations concerned with the future of
man, especially where this concern is focused on the issues of justice and peace in a spirit explicitly or implicitly Christian."
Impressive indeed, but not as impressive as the material Pro Mundi Vita produces. especially considering the size of the staff.
Each year the managing board meet and decide which topics need to be covered by their two monthly publications. The managing board is drawn from the representatives and experts of the major Catholic international aid and educational agencies of Western Europe. 'I he only British member at the moment is Mildred Nevile, the General Secretary of the Catholic Institute for International Relations.
Drawing on the resources of people on the ,,pot, its own professional staff and sometimes specialised research institutes. Pro Mundi Vita produces bulletins and dossiers of information on topics facing the Church at the present time. The topics have included "The Western Family and the Future of the Church", "New Forms of Ministries in Christian Communities", "Thailand in Transition". "The Church in Central America and Panama", and the most recent, "Religious Problems in Russia Today".
A survey of the church in Britain Is being planned for next year.
All the bulletins are comprehensive, tightly written and thoroughly foot-noted, and they appear in English, French, German, Spanish and Dutch.
The dossiers, briefer and more frequent, appear in English, French and Spanish.
Both are sent to what Pro Mundi Vita calls "decision makers and all persons in positions of responsibility in the Church; bishops, major superiors, leaders of movements and organisations and important communication centres."
There is no attempt to make the publications a commercial enterprise or to influence popular opinion by them.
The users are asked to contribute the cost of production, but the whole organisation is funded by foundations and aid agencies in Europe such as Misereor, the massive State-connected German aid agency.
Pro Mundi Vita also organises regular "colloquies" on current topics to bring together specialists in theology, sociology and psychology as well as those involved in the problems directly, to reflect and try to work towards a common policy on them.
This does not mean a rigid solution to the problem but the "colloquies" air opinions and stimulate discussion. The reports on them appear in French and English.
Pro Mundi Vita also dons research work for particular organisations such as Bishops' Conferences on any social and pastoral problems which could affect pastoral strategy. At present the staff of PMV stands as seven, including Fr Michael Singleton, an English White Father formerly in Tanzania. who covers African affairs, and Fr Parig Digan an Irish Columban Father who covers Asia.
From all the members of the staff I spoke to I received the clear impression that all were struck by the lack of interest in international and European affairs shown by the British Churches.
"Joining the EEC has made no difference to Britain," said Fr Kerkhofs. "you are still very insular."